Bowie State: 1968
On March 27, 1968 students at the predominantly black Bowie State College began a boycott of classes protesting an inferior physical plant, poor food and the denial of tenure to a popular professor.

Four days after the boycott that was nearly 100% effective began, 200 students seized buildings on the campus and Maryland Gov. Spiro Agnew called out the state police riot unit.

Although Agnew refused to negotiate, a confrontation was avoided when school officials promised that demands would be dealt with and students would meet with the state Senate Budget and Taxation Committee on school funding issues.

Agnew had blamed outsiders for the campus unrest, saying, “The activities of publicity seeking outsiders can only injure the cause of higher education in Maryland.”

The dispute escalated April 4th when nearly 250 students traveled to Annapolis and staged a “study-in” in the halls of the state house when Agnew refused to meet with them.

Agnew ordered their arrest and 227—more than a third of the 600 enrollees--were jailed along with a local civil rights leader. The governor then closed the campus saying he would not yield “to unlawful and illegal tactics.”

Agnew said his use of the phrases “outside influences” and “outside agitators” referred to NAACP mid-Atlantic youth director Kenneth R. Brown and students from Howard University who spoke on campus.

Agnew continued, “I guess I don’t get along with many Mr. Browns,” referring to his public disparagement of H. Rap Brown.

Agnew later approved accelerated spending of $500,000 for capital projects at the school and ordered the school reopened on April 16th.

The school, however, continued to struggle with unequal funding compared to the state’s historically white universities in College Park and Baltimore. The phrase “separate and unequal” has been used for many years to describe Maryland’s historically black state colleges.

Charges were later dropped against the 227 students and their records expunged. However, Brown’s arrest remained on his record.
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